Republicans and pro-Israel advocates drive the online conversation on the new conflict

An analysis of U.S. Senators’ social media statements shows Republicans have been reaching a larger audience online

So far this month, Republican senators have been much more vocal online about their support for Israel than Democratic senators have been about the escalating violence at all, according to data from Crowdtangle.

From May 1st to May 18th, U.S. senators made 121 posts on Facebook + Instagram that mention Israel, Palestine, Gaza, or Hamas. GOP senators made 93 of those posts, and Sen. Ted Cruz alone posted about the escalating conflict 28 times. This large amount of posting on Facebook, coupled with the Texas Senator’s huge following, is probably why Republican posts have earned so much more engagement on Facebook than Democrats’. On Instagram, however, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ statement alone exceeded the total engagement of all the posts on the platform by GOP senators.

Democratic and Republican senators alike were much more inclined to share their statements about the escalating preceding Thursday’s cease-fire on Facebook than on Instagram. Among all 100 senators, far and away the most-engaged post was a simple one from Ted Cruz:

Other Republican senators made similar posts on Facebook (which, as fate would have it, is very similar to President Biden’s initial stance on this month's conflict), and it’s one that Cruz made over and over and over again. GOP senators also used the escalating violence to oppose sanction relief for Iran and advocate for arms shipments to Israel.

Democratic senators have not been so loud about the conflict on social media, but those who have made statements on Facebook and Instagram focused their messaging on calling for a cease-fire. Twenty-eight of them signed a simple joint statement saying as much, and it seems like that was as much as they were willing to say on the matter online...except for Sen. Bernie Sanders. He also signed the statement, but he made his extended thoughts clear in a post that’s the second-most engaged among senators. Meanwhile, Sen. Elizabeth Warren went further to call for a two-state solution.

Of course, senators are hardly the only ones trying to use social media to lobby the public’s (and by extension, the government’s) opinion on the conflict. The Democratic Majority for Israel, for example, has spent $13,826 so far this year on Facebook ads, and they had been running pro-Israel and anti-Hamas ads since Facebook lifted its political ads band in March, lauding President Biden for his pro-Israel stance. These overwhelmingly target older Americans nationwide.

AIPAC, meanwhile, launched a significant Facebook ad campaign very quickly after the recent violence kicked off. From May 11th - 17th, the pro-Israel lobby spent $55,135 on all sorts of Facebook and Instagram ads going after Sen. Sanders and Democratic Reps. Mark Pocan, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Alexandria Ocaso-Cortez. Their ads echo rhetoric from Republicans and pro-Israel advocates; they call for unequivocal solidarity with Israel and blame “Iranian-backed” Hamas for the escalating violence.

And finally, for those who are already looking to the next presidential election, you may be interested to know that Nikki Haley’s group, Stand for America, has spent less than $600 on Facebook ads targeting older women nationwide arguing that “Israel needs the United States’ unwavering support.”